If I'm being honest with myself, about 80 percent of my obsession with David Bowie has to do with his cheekbones and overall sharp-edged, beautiful face. Yes, the music, and yes, the eyes, but let me say it again: cheekbones. But no matter how many strange expressions I make, my cheeks remain pinchable and my jawline will never compare to David Bowie's. Cue the violins, and break out that contour powder, I guess. So you can imagine how the idea of microcurrent facial devices, like the famed NuFace, appeal to me. Five minutes a day for a more lifted, contoured face? I don't mind if I do.
But let's be real—they're expensive, and I have a bad habit of using devices and then setting them down, forgetting about them, and never using them again. If I'm going to shell out a couple hundred dollars, I need to know it works. To give the 411 (do the youths even get that reference?) on if microcurrent devices are worth the splurge, I turn faithfully to Dr. Karan Lal, dermatologist and purveyor of skin truths. Below, he breaks down what exactly these devices do, who they work best for, and if you should invest in one.
What is microcurrent therapy?
In short, microcurrent therapy is exercise for your face. "Microcurrent therapy uses low-level electric voltage to stimulate the muscles in the face," explains Dr. Lal.
What are the benefits of microcurrent facial devices?
As time goes on, the system that coordinates our facial expressions and muscles becomes weaker, leading to that pulled-down, droopy look that is often the target of surgical treatments like face lifts. "This therapy stimulates this system, causing the muscles to perk up. This therapy is often used in physical therapy and has been shown in studies to promote wound healing," Dr. Lal says.
The same way an ab workout helps tone our stomachs, microcurrent therapy zaps those slacking muscles in our face for a more lifted, youthful, and contoured appearance.
Do microcurrent facial devices work?
Yes, they do… for a while. Unfortunately, the idea that a microcurrent device can over time create a permanent change in your appearance is false. "These devices do not provide permanent results. Just like exercise, gains aren’t made overnight and persistence is key," says Dr. Lal.
If you're going to invest in a device, know that daily use is the only way to see consistent results. These are not a replacement for more invasive procedures, so if you're looking for a low-lift, one-and-done solution for sagging skin, microcurrent therapy isn't a miracle worker. However, when done consistently, the face will appear more lifted. "Most facial massages will also decrease inflammation, swelling, and provide some level of lift, all of which is temporary," says Dr. Lal.
Are at-home microcurrent devices worth the price?
If you're committed to using it consistently, then probably yes, especially when compared to similar in-office treatments.
"In office treatments are expensive and results are transient. Most practitioners recommend a series of beginning treatments followed by maintenance treatments and the cost adds up," warns Dr. Lal.
While at-home devices don't come cheap: "In the long run, for people who are persistent, they may provide to be more economical than in-office treatments," Dr. Lal says. That being said, when done by a professional, microcurrent therapy can be tailored to your specific needs.
Who is a good candidate for microcurrent therapy?
Good news: everyone! Microcurrent therapy is safe and relatively painless. But it's important to make sure you're still keeping up with the rest of your skincare routine. "People who have perfected creating a skincare regimen with SPF, a retinoid, and antioxidants that are looking for a low-risk way of improving skin firmness are good candidates for microcurrent therapy," says Dr. Lal.
So there you have it. If you're looking for a noninvasive way to give yourself a more sculpted, Bowie-esque appearance, it might be worth investing in a microcurrent device. Above, shop four of the best-reviewed tools on the market that'll give you that chiseled look.